The role of literature is to illuminate, to strengthen, to explain why some aspect of life is moving or beautiful or terrible or sad. Andrew Solomon
I was first introduced to Andrew Solomon through his book Far From The Tree. It is an amazing look at the acceptance (or not) of human variations. Do not be put off by the length and depth of this book. It takes a lot of information to consider how we raise children who are profoundly different. What if the child is autistic? Deaf? Has Down Syndrome? Or has dwarfism, to name a few.
Solomon began writing this twelve years ago, after attending a protest of deaf students who instead of feeling disabled saw themselves with their own unique gifts. Unique stories reveal the desire for all humans to be valued as individuals whatever their skills or limitations. Solomon also uses his personal experience as an atypical learner and nonconformist son of heterosexual parents.
I found Far from the Tree so powerful that even though I was reluctant to read a book on depression, I decided to try The Noonday Demon his first book that was a 2001 National Book Award winner.
This exhaustive examination of depression and mental illness might be a little depressing but it is also beautifully written interweaving the author’s personal experience with every conceivable scientific, anthropological, evolutionary, political and historical perspective using great intelligence, warmth, and insight. If you don’t want to read the entire book, do not miss the most riveting segment in the chapter on suicide that tells the story of his mother.
Solomon’s writing proves how no one is exempt. We don’t get to pick and choose life experience but only our actions to persevere with awareness, open hearts, and love.